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New hoops coaches have big shoes to fill

Mike Melin and Jason Fawcett may not be household names in this community, but they probably will be once the basketball season rolls around next winter.

Both Melin and Fawcett came highly recommended when they were recently hired to coach the local high school girls basketball teams. Melin will take the helm at Lakeridge, replacing Heather Roberts, who recently stepped down to take the head coach's job at Canby. Fawcett will lead the way at Lake Oswego after Velaida Harris stepped down to pursue other opportunities.

Melin comes to Lakeridge after spending 10 years as the head girls coach at Glencoe High School in Hillsboro. He was regarded by many as one of the top coaches in the state after leading the Crimson Tide to the state playoffs in six of the last seven seasons.

'It was a nice run,' Melin said.

But the coach said he was growing weary of the 45-minute commute he had to make each day from his home in Sellwood to Glencoe, which is located almost in North Plains.

'It really came down to drive time,' Melin said. 'The commute time (to Lakeridge) beats the heck out of 45 minutes (to Glencoe),' he said.

Fawcett, meanwhile, was already used to his commute to Lake Oswego. He's been spending a lot of time over the last year on the Lakers' campus, where he has been working with Kevin Love and others on their conditioning.

Fawcett's resume includes extensive experience as an assistant coach - which includes time at the club level, plus stints in high school, college and the pros (with the Portland Fire).

This Fawcett's first shot at being the head coach and there will be pressure to follow the success of previous Lake Oswego coaches, especially legendary coach Gary Lavender who retired after the 2004 season. However, that pressure will be the last thing on Fawcett's mind.

'That's not where my focus is,' he said.

When Harris stepped down this spring, she left a good nucleus of players. But the new coach prefers not to talk about any of them on an individual basis, at least not at this point.

'Everyone is working hard (this summer) and you can't ask for any more than that,' the coach offered.

The Lakers have already turned in two impressive performances during their summer league. One of those games was against Jesuit and other was against Central Catholic - a contest that was called after three overtimes with the score still tied.

'We got what we wanted out of it,' Fawcett said.

The Lakers then hit the road for a tournament in Seattle this week; then they'll play eight games in Santa Barbara, Calif., next week.

Meanwhile, the summer season for Melin will almost be a breeze compared to the last two or three weeks of the school year. Melin spent those final weeks working two jobs at once as he finished up his duties at Glencoe and then worked evenings at Lakeridge to make sure his new team wasn't losing any ground.

'It's been a little busy for a while,' Melin said.

Melin inherits a program that some people felt was in decline after Roberts had trouble fielding enough players to fill the varsity, junior varsity and freshmen teams last year. But the new coach likes what he's seen so far in that regard.

'I'm impressed with the amount of kids that are playing basketball (at Lakeridge),' Melin said.

'There's a good base of kids. (And) they're really willing to learn and the parents are real positive.'

Like Fawcett, Melin has some big shoes to fill at Lakeridge. Roberts led the Pacers to a second-place finish in state two years ago and then a fourth-place showing last year. But Melin doesn't seem to mind how high the bar has been set in the past.

'I did come in after Mark Neffendorf (who led Glencoe to a second-place finish in 1996), so I know what it's like to take a little heat,' he said.

Melin then followed Neffendorf's success by taking Glencoe to the state semifinals in 2002 and then a fifth-place finish the following year.

'It will be fun to see if I can build the same kind of success at Lakeridge,' Melin said.

Either way, the coach would like to become a long-term fixture at Lakeridge.

'I'd like to stay in one place for a while,' he said.